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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall 71-52 To No. 22 Wisconsin

by on January 06, 2019 10:10 PM

Penn State men’s basketball (7-8, 0-4) struggled again offensively on Sunday night in a 71-52 blowout loss to No. 22 Wisconsin (11-4, 3-1) at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Lamar Stevens led the Nittany Lions with 22 points, while Wisconsin star Ethan Happ also netted 22 points. Penn State shot just 37 percent in the game, including a 4-for-20 mark from 3-point range, and it turned the ball over 16 times.

How It Happened

Without Pat Chambers at the helm in the wake of his suspension, Penn State actually settled into Sunday’s game very nicely in the early going. With the score tied 7-7, Wisconsin went on its first run of the game – a 7-0 spurt which gave the Badgers a lead they would never relinquish. The Nittany Lions committed 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the contest, effectively ending the game before it even started.

Penn State exchanged a couple of buckets with the visitors before Wisconsin reeled off another 13-2 run. A 7-0 run cut the gap to 31-23 in the final minute of the first half, thanks to a Myles Dread three-pointer and layups from Stevens and Rasir Bolton, respectively. A buzzer-beater by Wisconsin’s Brad Davison made the halftime deficit 10 points for associate head coach Keith Urgo’s squad.

Wisconsin picked up right where it left off in the second half, outscoring the Nittany Lions 16-2 in the first 6:30 of the second half to stretch the lead up to 49-25. A Josh Reaves slam and a three-pointer from Bolton gave the crowd something to cheer for, as Penn State finally got the offense flowing after a 1-for-9 start from the field in the second half. 

The Nittany Lions made five of their next six shots and trimmed the gap to as few as 16 points, but Wisconsin continued to keep Penn State off balance by splitting its looks between Happ and its plethora of 3-point shooters that helped the team shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc in the game.

The advantage for Wisconsin fluctuated over the last 10 minutes of the game, as its lead never fell below 15 but never extended beyond 22 points. Penn State finished the last 4:21 without a field goal. Stevens finished 22 points on a 9-for-18 shooting night. Myles Dread added nine points, and Mike Watkins contributed 10 rebounds.

Takeaways

  • The biggest criticism of Penn State this year has been its consistently stagnant offensive possessions, and Sunday night’s game kept that trend alive. Unlike last year’s isolation offense that featured two great one-on-one scorers along with an elite 3-point shooter, this year’s team boasts only Stevens as a reliable scorer and a bunch of freshman guards who have yet to find their confidence in Big Ten play. It doesn’t help that returning players like Reaves and Watkins have underperformed as scoring options, and role players like Trent Buttrick, John Harrar, and Jamari Wheeler haven’t shown anything to suggest improvement offensively.
  • This was the first game the Nittany Lions have just been flat out blown out of since losing to Michigan State in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. Penn State’s defense can keep the team in most games, but its 3-point defense that has been so good this season (exhibit A: Virginia Tech) was exposed on Sunday night. The Badgers shot 50 percent from deep by exploiting the aggressive, physical Nittany Lion defense by playing around the arc.
  • Turnovers are to be expected from a young team, but the amount of cough-ups in the first 12 minutes shut Penn State out of this game before it really even began. 10 turnovers over that time frame and 16 turnovers overall are not a recipe for success, especially when Wisconsin only committed six. Stevens, Watkins, and Reaves — the team’s three most experienced players — combined for 11 of those turnovers. It’s not just a freshman problem – this offense legitimately doesn’t have an identity.
  • This is Penn State’s worst start in conference play since it started 0-6 in the 2014-15 season. The Nittany Lions finished their Big Ten slate with a 4-14 record that year.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions travel to Lincoln to face No. 24 Nebraska at 9 p.m. Thursday. You can watch the game on ESPN2.

 



This post was originally published by the staff at Onward State. Follow Onward State on Twitter @OnwardState.
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